Wednesday 12 September 2012

Review: The Sweeney

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Sweeney poster

The Sweeney
112 mins / Dir. Nick Love

"What would it take. For you. To have sex. With Ray Winstone? Oh, and in a pub toilet? Yes, yes, I know you played the female-lead in Captain America, we saw you in that and that's why we want you to be in The Sweeney. But that thing we asked you about just now, it's kind of a deal-breaker. It is the deal, in fact. And yes, he'll be walking around in his pants."

I won't lie to you, I fucking well enjoyed The Sweeney. As gritty as it tries to be (and the number of shootouts in public places with civilian casualties is alarmingly plausible), there's a layer of slickness that's constantly pulling the film away from reality. Armed robberies and gunfights with middle-aged men haven't seemed quite this cool outside of a Guy Ritchie flick*1. The main difference here, of course, is that we're seeing it all from the point-of-view of the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad - not that we get to see any of the paperwork being done; being in the Sweeney means putting your feet up on the desk or fiddling with your phone with your hood up. And this is indicative of a larger phenomena, whereby loose-ends seems to get conveniently ignored with few or no questions being asked. But this movie is told firmly from Jack Regan (Winstone)'s POV, and that is how his character manages his career, much to the annoyance of his superiors, so it seems strangely fitting.

Now I know this film won't be for everyone. It's pretty much The Ultimate Ray Winstone Vehicle™, where he gets to play the part he's constantly acting out in his head anyway, and the rest of the cast follow suit by not wasting time making their characters appear likeable or anything. So y'know, you're either on their side or you're not. I was, and so I thoroughly enjoyed just under two hours of shooting, swearing, drinking, crashing geezers. There is some amount of substance, but style definitely has the greater share.
Plantagenet Beaumont puts in a good turn as Regan's protege, George Carter, and again is almost inexplicably amiable as a young, cocky, surly misanthrope-in-training. Damian Lewis and Steven Mackintosh pop up regularly as their put-upon bosses trying to keep them on the right-side of the law, and apart from the aforementioned Hayley Atwell, everyone else is pretty much window dressing (including the villains). So again, it fits perfectly with Regan's point-of-view on the world. Oh, and if you're going to put Alan Ford (Brick Top from Snatch) in there as Regan's connection to the cockney underworld, wouldn't you use him a bit more?

The Sweeney's not perfect, but it doesn't need to be. Entertainment is all that's required, and it excels at that. As with a couple of other films this year, this would make an excellent jumping-off point for a TV series, if they were going to reboot it for the small screen. Then again, the TV version wouldn't be able to incorporate lines like Carter's…

"…but you didn't count on one thing… me, you cahnt."

Like I said: not for everyone. And how many other films have you seen whose finale is a car chase and shootout at at static-caravan park in Gravesend?

The Sweeney is all mouth and all trousers.


*1 On a violence-related note, I'm not entirely sure why the BBFC have classified this as a Cert.15, while Dredd gets the Cert.18 treatment. There are plenty of 'meaty' head-shots in Dredd, and a few cuss-words, but it's in a clearly-defined fantasy setting, and the violence and language on display in The Sweeney far outweighs it, and in an environment we see on the news every day.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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